Tag Archives: psychophysics

New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

A quick roundup of new articles for your summer reading pleasure:

Behavioral Scientist
Psychologists Go to War,” by John Greenwood. No abstract. Discusses psychologists’ involvement in WWI and the broader effects of this work.

All the (Pseudo)Science That’s Fit to Print,” by Evan Nesterak. No abstract. Discusses the popular psychology magazine collection held at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

History of Psychology
Buried Layers: On the Origins, Rise, and Fall of Stratification Theories,” by Martin Wieser. Abstract:

This article presents a historical analysis of the origins, rise, and demise of theories of stratification (Schichtentheorien). Following their roots in the ancient metaphysical idea of the “great chain of being,” Aristotle’s scala naturae, the medieval “Jacob’s ladder,” and Leibniz’s concept of the lex continua, I argue that theories of stratification represent the modern heir to the ancient cosmological idea of a harmonious, hierarchical, and unified universe. Theories of stratification reached their heyday during the interwar period within German academia, proliferating over a vast number of disciplines and rising to special prominence within personality psychology, feeding the hope for a unitary image of the world and of human beings, their biological and mental development, their social organization and cultural creations. This article focuses on the role of visuality as a distinct mode of scientific knowledge within theories of stratification as well as the cultural context that provided the fertile ground for their flowering in the Weimar Republic. Finally, the rapid demise of theories of stratification during the 1950s is discussed, and some reasons for their downfall during the second half of the 20th century are explored.

Medical History
Lives in the Asylum Record, 1864 to 1910: Utilising Large Data Collection for Histories of Psychiatry and Mental Health,” by Angela McCarthy, Catharine Coleborne, Maree O’Connor, and Elspeth Knewstubb. Abstract: Continue reading New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

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Fechner Day Interview with David Robinson

October 22nd is Fechner Day, marking the anniversary of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s formulation of psychophysics on the morning of October 22nd, 1860. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of psychophysics, AHP brings you a sneak peak into the forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology (HoP), via an interview with Fechner authority David Robinson (left).

AHP: The forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology, features a special section celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s (1801-1887) Elemente der Psychophysik or Elements of Psychophysics. As guest co-editor of this section, can you briefly summarize the importance of this work in the history of psychology?

DR: Fechner was a prominent German physicist, when eye injury (and apparently mental collapse) forced him to retire from experimental physics at Leipzig University. As he slowly recovered from illness, he indulged his naturphilosophisch, pantheistic inclinations and sought to establish firm quantitative relationships between stimuli and sensation (or perhaps better, perception), indeed between matter and spirit. This was the 1850s, and several other physicists and sensory physiologists were making inroads in empirical and quantitative studies of perception. Fechner’s long two-volume book, Elemente, did not please them all, but it is fair to say that he successfully coined the term, psychophysics, and gave those studies and experimental psychology a lot of early momentum. Indeed Fechner was still there in Leipzig, when Wilhelm Wundt founded the Institute of Experimental Psychology in 1879. Continue reading Fechner Day Interview with David Robinson

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Fechner Day!

G. T. FechnerAccording to legend, on this date in 1850, Gustav Theodor Fechner arose from his sleep armed with wholly new method to attack the problem studying the mind. Rather than relying on introspective reports of what was going on in people’s minds, scientists could, instead, vary the intensity of some external physical stimulus and ask the “participant” (as we now call them) whether s/he could detect any difference perceptually. For instance: “Does this weight seem heavier than that one?” “Does this light seem brighter or greener than that one?” “Does sound seem louder or higher than that one?” Continue reading Fechner Day!

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